Is 1st in Texas broke?

I have been happily hosting events in North Texas for several years now. This year, dealing with FIRST in Texas has been difficult. They do not want to pay a fair price for hosting events. This season, they sent my check right away, yeah, right. That is not the case; they withdrew the hosting fee from our account. No one from FIRST in Texas has contacted me to explain why money was withdrawn from our account. I was only directed to the finance department. Still no money. I have heard others are owed thousands of dollars. Plus, the bank charged me a fee. I think the organization is going bankrupt, or someone is stealing. They have everyone walking on pins and needles in Texas.

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Is this FTC or FLL?

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Both

I’m a bit confused by this (perhaps it’s a difference in how events are paid for in FiT compared to FiM, which is what I’m used to).

When you say “hosting events”, are you an event organizer that sets up events at like a school or something? How is the process supposed to work?
Does FiT pay for event expenses normally? Why would they have the ability to withdraw money from your account (or is this like an account you have with them)? What is the “fair price” for hosting that you’re referring to here (are they like objecting to specific charges or the total cost)? What kind of costs are you looking at for these events?

In FiM at least, event management and funding are handled differently at every level of FIRST programs and many events seek out sponsors to cover costs themselves rather than having FiM cover the whole cost of an event (though this varies substantially between different events).
Of the events in my immediate area, the FLL event is run completely by the event sponsor, including managing the playing fields and covering any facility costs (I don’t know how common this is for other events, but the sponsor likes doing it); the FTC events only costs are janitorial service and FiM handles playing fields and such; and the FRC event is largely funded by local sponsors with field and support equipment provided by FiM, though some things like tarps and Masonite are provided/stored by the event.

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Before FiT, the regions used that system as FiM to pay event hosts. Now, FiT collects all of the funds and pays a fee that does not cover the janitorial or security fees that the host has to pay to the school. As far as I know, there are no sponsors outside of FRC.

I guess my question is, what does the fee they pay cover? In my experience in FiM, FLL/FTC events shouldn’t be that expensive to run in the first place. Do FTC events have to provide their own fields for instance or does FiT do that like FiM does?

wat

Well more specifically… What’s going on? Who are these parties involved? Is there a specific accusation of FIT taking money from people’s accounts without cause or notifying them? Why would they usually pay for a service, but suddenly shift to requiring to be paid for the same thing?

Are you certain they are aware of the gravity of the situation?

Has small claims court been attempted, if it is as serious as FIT stealing money?

To be clear, it’s very weird to me that anyone would allow this to happen to them more than once. Like, yes, I also carry a credit card balance occasionally while waiting for reimbursement. But if that went on for any longer than a month, and especially if I had no line of sight to reimbursement, that’s exactly the last time I volunteer for that organization.

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Without getting into the specifics of “what does the fee cover?”, I think the larger issue is that FIRST in Texas (FiT) regularly does not meet its payment obligations to event hosts and teams. I’ve heard similar problems as OP from a number of event hosts in Texas.

For FTC in Texas, FIRST in Texas creates agreements with event hosts to run events on their behalf. I believe it’s a similar situation for FLL events. FIRST in Texas does provide much of the equipment for the events and cover many of the event expenses, but they also promise the event hosts a stipend as incentive to host the event. For deeply involved hosts that run multiple events or large (championship) events, these amounts can easily run into the thousands of dollars and are a significant source of support for the activities of the FIRST teams at the host institution.

It’s been a perennial problem with FIRST in Texas that they don’t pay people in a timely manner, and sometimes not at all. Since teams and organizations will often make purchases or plans based upon receiving the promised funds, they end up being “on the hook” for those purchases for many months waiting for FiT to make good on it.

I know of many instances, including myself, where I ended up carrying credit card charges (and interest) for several months waiting for FIRST in Texas to resolve whatever internal accounting and billing issues existed on their end.

What I can say is that this isn’t an isolated issue (occurring with only a single organization/host), nor is it new to this season. It’s an ongoing problem.

Pm

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They were using a system called Bill.com to pay us our hosting fees. The money was electronically deposited into the school activity account and later withdrawn without an explanation. There seem to be systematic issues with the organization that no one will address.

I believe this is one of the reasons it is becoming harder to find venues willing to host FIRST events in Texas.

I’ll add, by way of experience, that one of FIRST in Texas’ “go-to” excuses is traditionally “we are in the middle of changing accounting systems / accountants” as a reason for the delayed payments. But it seems odd to me that they seem to change accounting systems and/or accountants nearly every year, and the net result is the same – people getting paid months late or not at all.

Pm

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I mainly asked this to get an idea of what the expectations were, since they likely differ by region.

For instance, in FiM, we don’t really get a solid list of “things FiM will pay for”, but we are given “minimum requirements” expected for events, and FiM will generally reimburse events for any reasonable expenses when needed. But if I as an event organizer went out and rented like a $10,000 video wall or something crazy like that and tried to get FiM to pay for it, they would almost certainly reject it. If FiT was getting a bunch of unanticipated reimbursement requests, I could understand the delays/underpayments (though that doesn’t sound like it’s the case).

Obviously if event organizers are being expressly told “xyz will be paid for by FiT” and they aren’t getting paid, that’s definitely not good, I’m just personally not used to a system where organizers are given specific lists like that.

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May be worth the read as well:

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Yes, he is the problem. Let’s not say more.

Thank you, Patrick. That was very well said and the truth.

After having a chance to double check some facts, I can independently corroborate that the situation happening to the OP is currently happening to another Texas event host. I’ve been given permission by this other host to share some of the details here.

Around the middle of June, this event host received a bank notification that a check they had deposited from FIRST in Texas had bounced and the funds were withdrawn from their bank account. The amount of the check is in excess of $2,000.

In this specific instance, I literally “have (copies of) the receipts.”

The event host contacted FIRST in Texas about it, and was told that they would receive a new check and that FIRST in Texas would cover the bank charges. However, that was over two weeks ago and the new payment has not yet arrived, nor has there been any word or updates from FiT as to when payment might be expected.

Messages to FiT officials are going unanswered.

This particular host ran multiple events throughout the 2023-2024 season, and is currently owed many thousands more from FIRST in Texas – around $5K over and above the bounced check cited above. All of the events were successfully completed many months ago. At present none of promised payments have materialized.

I am starting to hear from other Texas event hosts that they are in similar situations, and I am collating/collecting details as I can.

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When I think of the term “Gracious Professionalism”, at the very heart of FIRST, I sometimes feel there’s a bit more emphasis put on “Gracious”. I think we should also be sure to honor “Professionalism”, too. Because while it’s clear that there’s a lack of grace here, the way FiT treats its “partners” and employees is definitely not “professional”.

Professionals do not renege on their agreements, stiff their partners for promised funds, or ghost people when there is a problem. They don’t continually make excuses for their situation. A professional will treat the situation honestly, openly, and work to rectify things quickly – especially when their actions or inactions have the potential of direct harm to the other parties they work with.

To me, having thousands of dollars suddenly disappearing from bank accounts is something that would normally merit immediate attention and action from the highest levels of FiT, and not something to be put off for several weeks and left for hosts to deal with in silence. Anyone who deposited a check from FIRST in Texas in the past few months may suddenly find themselves overdrawn and in serious cash flow issues because of FiT’s behavior. Platitudes from FIT staff of “we’ll make you whole… someday… maybe… when (if) {upper-level-person} approves” who aren’t empowered to resolve the issues… these aren’t adequate, appropriate, or professional responses.

There needs to be immediate, proactive communications from people within FiT to all of the hosts and others affected by FiT’s internal finance issues as to what is happening, what actions are being taken, and dates by which things will be done. Leaving people to discover it on their own (via a bank notice), to deal with the fallout/damages, and to have their justfiable and urgent inquiries ignored and unaddressed by FiT is simply wrong, ungracious, and unprofessional.

Pm

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I’d bypass FIT if they didn’t respond quickly and go directly to the prosecuting attorney. Writing bad checks is fraud.

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How is FIRST still associated with FIT? Like genuinely, aren’t they nominally in charge here? Event hosts that are getting stiffed by FIT should be making their complaints known to the higher ups.

There isn’t an alternate program delivery organization for Texas at the moment, so if they cut ties then FIRST simply wouldn’t happen in Texas until a new solution was figured out. That’s far from ideal for everyone involved.

As far as I can tell, that’s the only reason…

This morning I received a message from FIRST in Texas. They have set up a “Payment Error Report” tool where anyone that is missing a payment or having problem with a payment (including returned checks) can submit details and have it added to FiT’s tracking system and hopefully speed up resolution.

A direct link is currently https://store.firstintexas.org/payment-error-submission/ . The link is also available as “Payment Error Report” under the “Resources” tab on the firstintexas.org website, on pages other than the firstintexas.org home page itself.

Pm

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